PRIME Minister Imran Khan, while reviewing progress on development of the national mineral resources [‘Chiniot, Kalabagh iron reserves to be tapped soon: PM’ (Sept 21)] had said that a plan was in the final stage to tap iron ore reserves in Chiniot and Kalabagh. Declaring it as one of the government’s top priorities to exploit these major resources of iron in Punjab, he said investment would soon be sought for the purpose.

Under the present socioeconomic scenario, there are compelling factors to optimise development of mineral resources, but, looking back, one realises that words would not materialise into actions on their own. Kalabagh’s Chichali iron deposits, for instance, were discovered in the 1950s, and were worth about 500 million tonnes. They have long been considered suitable for use in steel mills, but have remained unutilised.

Likewise, the discovery of iron and copper deposits in Rajoha and Chiniot was of great economic importance. Unfortu-nately, no serious efforts were made by the past governments to explore, exploit and develop these mineral resources.

It was only in 2014 that the Punjab Mineral Company (PMC) was given the task to undertake these activities with the support of international firms. The first phase of the project was completed in two years, having determined the economic viability of mining 340 tonnes of iron ore deposits, and its suitability for steelmaking. Somehow, the second phase of the project, scheduled for completion in 2018, has not yet been completed. Seemingly, the ongoing work has been stalled due to reasons that are not technical in nature.

It was planned to establish an integrated iron ore mining, processing and steel mills complex at Chiniot to initially produce one million tonnes of hot rolled coils annually. The project is included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor ((CPEC) portfolio. The minister concerned should look after the affairs of PMC personally and issue directives regarding the re-commencement of work on second phase of the project on a priority basis.

Hussain Siddiqui
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2021

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